In Canadian Daniel MacIvor’s short play (70 min), The Soldier Dreams, David, the central character (played variously by Ethan Niven and David Shofner), lies in a coma. He is dying, we infer, of AIDS near the height of the epidemic in the nineties.
We learn of him through the interactions of his dysfunctional family: The oldest, Tish (Amy Moorman), is particularly unpleasant and controlling. Her husband, Sam (Casey Sullivan), is a decent enough guy who keeps his opinions mostly to himself, while youngest sister, Judy (Stephanie Crothers on the day I attended), we are told, is a flibbertigibbet. Ethereal David watches over the scene, making sense of the comatose David’s mutterings even though his family and even his live-in lover (Conor Lane) cannot.
Director Amanda Weir has more than enough space in which to enact the interplay between scenes, which gives the entire enterprise a laconic pace.
Since the action veers from David’s hospice bed to dream sequences of David’s fateful encounter with an exotic stranger (Schuyler Mastain), the enigmatic setting features construction girders that symbolize a disco, surrounding the realistic bedding (all designed by Jan Monroe). Despite Matt Richter’s well-designed lighting, the lack of a backdrop, however, causes some action to disappear into the expansive darkness. The rest of Open Fist’s design team works competently to support the entire enterprise.
The play harks to earlier works on the epidemic such as the Normal Heart, and in MacIvor’s rendition, the story of a chance encounter between David and a stranger has become all too familiar. Perhaps AIDS’ global impact was the reason that Open Fist chose this play to open its first production since the beginning of COVID. But, since our current pandemic doesn’t seem to affect David’s hapless family as we feel in our current moment, the production fails to make a connection.
The Soldier Dreams alternates with Never Swim Alone Saturday at 8:30, Sunday at 7:00 pm and Monday at 8:15 pm through December 12th. For both plays proof of vaccination is required. Admission is by recommended donation of $20. Consult www.openfist.org for more details.